Last night we had a fantastic men's group. We focused on the teaching of Brennan Manning, particularly where he said that when struggling with an addiction, a good starting point is to understand that God loves us as we are, not as we should be. I agree and know the strength one can draw from the confidence that the God of the universe is for you. This offers us security. The question which arises involves next steps. Where do we go from here? And, what is the goal of our Christian life once we know God loves us as we are?
The Basic Problem of Pornography
Pornography offers comfort for hurting men and women. Rather than take a pill or grab a bottle, we turn to its comfort as our go-to remedy to dull the pain of life. Since pain is everywhere, after a while our porn use becomes a habit. Although this habit does not tear us from the love of God, it has consequences. It distances us from hearing God's voice which offers comfort in difficult times. Porn hurts our wives, suggesting that quick sex is all women are good for. Porn robs us of time with others and kills our ministry to them. God's plan is that we be in a powerful relationship with Him through His Holy Spirit, truly love our wives, have meaningful fellowship and use our time here on earth to influence others toward Him. When done right, this is sufficient to overcome life's difficulties.
I believe there are two main reasons we turn to pornography, instead of God, when life happens:
1. We Don't Believe or Trust That God is Sufficient
I admit this is true for me. I don't have confidence that God will rescue me the way pornography does. Pornography is quick, easy, and reliable. It is available on demand. I don't need to wait on God's timing, which can be slow. I live in America and I want my pain relief NOW. Of course, God's faithfulness to me is proven over time. He always comes through. And, waiting on God allows Him to grow and change me during these waiting periods. He also teaches me to trust in Him for small and big things in the wait.
Pornography teaches me nothing and offers no growth. It stunts my development and leaves me as a child. Imagine the 6-year-old who got instant relief to life's problems with a simple fix - like a candy bar. He would stay a child, unable to cope and handle bigger challenges. God's plan is to grow us up so he can use us in bigger and better things as He equips us. Look back over time and see if you don't agree that He has rescued and strengthened you repeatedly. Consider how He has provided timely for your needs.
If you are not convinced, ask for the testimonies of others in your life. Seek out examples from other believers in history. Study the Bible daily - it is packed with examples. God has demonstrated that He is worthy of our trust and that he is sufficient for all we'll encounter. We need to be disciplined to wait on our Father’s timing for relief. Don't demand instant relief.
2. We Don't Know How to Enter Into the Designed Relationship
God desires depth in a relationship with us, not just a quick prayer shot up in desperation. That depth comes over time from three primary sources:
A. Reading the Word of God
The Word of God has long been the primary way He speaks to us. We simply can't draw close to God without reading His Word. The Bible covers all areas of life, including sexuality. God invented sex, still thinks it is a good idea, and speaks in His Word of how sex apart from His plan can hurt us and others. In a tight schedule, you can listen to the Bible every day while you drive to work as it is read on a podcast over your phone. Try the Daily Audio Bible. I download several at a time and always have a few ready to go on my phone.
B. Prayer with God - a Two-Way Street
Prayer involves quiet meditation before God, listening to his spirit, and talking with Him. It is not designed as a time to present our shopping list to our loving Father. Yes, He wants to hear petitions for us and others, but that should not be the extent of your prayers. If you are too busy for 15 - 30 minutes of quiet prayer, you are too busy for a relationship with God. I frequently recall the saying, “if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”
C. Fellowship with Others
Fellowship is fun. Never miss a Sunday after finding a church where you enjoy the worship, teaching, and opportunities for friendships. Join a small group that meets midweek. Next, check out the thousands of webcasts where you can hear teaching from top-notch preachers. Podcasts are a great way to download daily content in this area as well. Christian books are available on any subject and will provide tools from those who have been there before. Christian radio is a favorite place of mine to listen to solid teaching and hear encouraging music. Find friends from church or a men's support group and you will have a valuable resource when you encounter temptation. Choose carefully who you hang out with, since “birds of a feather flock together.” I tell my kids to think about who they spend time with since they will become like those people.
Lack of Sin is not the Measuring Stick
As I mentioned above, lack of sin is not the immediate goal. Getting to know God and developing a heart after Him is our first step in beating the porn problem. He wants a relationship with you. We cannot experience victory over life's challenges, like porn, without the filling of God's Holy Spirit and closeness to Him. He provides the direction, tools, and strength to victory as we cling to Him and His plan for our lives. He is worthy of our trust. As you walk closely with Him, you will notice the grip of sin slowly loosening. It will lose its appeal in comparison to the joy found in God's company. Life at its fullest is available for free to those who lean on Him.
God's focus has always been on the heart. Throughout the Bible, stories are told of men involved in sin, who have turned to God with their whole heart. Imagine David, the murderer and adulterer, as described by God to David's son Solomon, "if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did. . .." How did David do it? He invited God into all he did. God wants us to do that too. He invites us to "love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." Deuteronomy 30:6. He wants us to, "turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 30:10. You can best steer your heart toward our Father by filling your time with thoughts of Him.
Seek first a relationship with God. Pursue him. Get to know him as your closest friend. Fall in love with Him with all your heart. Your sinful lifestyle will pale in comparison to fellowship with the God of the universe.